Friday, February 19, 2016

Awful Ends: The British Museum Book Of Epitaphs by David M. Wilson

This is a unique book, an anthology of tombstone inscriptions. There are a few from literature but most from actual tombstones and cemetery dedications in England and the United States. These epitaphs provide an interesting and often amusing picture of life and attitude toward death from past centuries. Some of the sentiments expressed in these epitaphs are:
Trust in the afterlife--
"He raised with love that fragile flower
To Wake in bliss on high."

Admiration of Virtue--
"...A virtuous and amiable man..."

Expressions of Grief--
"My heart is like cabbage,
A cabbage cut in two..."

But more interesting are the epitaphs that express anger at death or honest appraisals of the dearly departed:
Weakness of the deceased--
"Here lies Peg, that drunken sot
Who dearly loved her jug and pot."

Financial condition--
"Here I like at the Chancel door
Here lie I because I'm poor."

Cause of death--
"His death...which was caused by stupidity of Laurence Tulloch who sold him nitre instead 
of Epsom salts."

Evil deeds--
"...and yet betrayed God's Holy Church for Mammon."

Awful Ends: The British Museum Book of Epitaphs by David M. Wilson is an unusual book of prose and poetry, approval and aspersion, praise and criticism. It must be read to be enjoyed. These few examples are the mere tip of the iceberg.